Simulating the Arc Light Approach

First, a primer on nuclear war terms. Counterforce means military targets, countervalue means civilian ones. That being said, on with the post.

Eric Harry’s novel Arc Light, one of the first reviewed on Fuldapocalypse, has a way to get a large but survivable nuclear exchange. This is to have both sides aiming for an incredibly counterforce-centered approach. Doing such approaches in Nuclear War Simulator (and there are official scenarios that show such focuses being done) generally means something similar to the novel: Around a few million dead on both sides (especially depending on which way the fallout blows), but most “important” stuff still intact, as the damage is concentrated in remote bases.

Besides the obvious “but what if it goes beyond missile silos in the middle of nowhere” objection, there’s also context that the US and Russia/USSR are very big, which makes it more possible to have “remote” areas at all. Have a big fallout wave anywhere near the dense massively populated belt of eastern China and the toll rises dramatically. Do it basically anywhere across India’s generally “spread out” (for lack of a better word) populace or in a smaller country and the result is similar.

I have to repeat that the Arc Light approach is something I find a lot more acceptable (not plausible, I use acceptable as a better term) than the Hackett’s WW3 approach. The strategic exchange is aimed purely at military targets? All right, I can believe that. Tac nukes are used but nothing more? I can also accept that. But just a small number of countervalue targets (ie the infamous Birmingham and Minsk?) That’s harder for me to accept.

Weird Wargaming: The Condor Missile

Imagine a ballistic missile made by as close to as pure a League of Evil as it’s possible to get. Such a missile did not actually (to public knowledge) enter service, but it was worked on by several of the world’s most nefarious regimes. I speak of the Condor II/Badr-2000 (and undoubtedly many more names if it had spread) missile that was worked on by the Falklands-era Argentine junta, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and Egypt’s military regime (which has been credibly rumored to have continued development on other long-range missiles based on it in secret by itself.)

In Nuclear War Simulator, if I want a basic strategic missile for a rogue nation I’m giving plausible nuclear weapons, I give them Condors. As a final version of the Condor II was never explicitly built and tested, exact figures cannot be determined. However, range has been stated at 500-1200 kilometers and circular error probable from 500-50 meters, with even the larger number being acceptable for a nuclear warhead aimed at a city. The UNMOVIC report on Iraq’s missile program stated that the Badr-2000 had more modest goals: 1 phase with a range of 620 km and a CEP of 6.2 kilometers, followed by Phase 2 (620 km/620 meters) and Phase 3 (750 km/750 meters). The ballpark is narrow enough for me to use a “considerably longer than INF limits, and not too inaccurate” judgement in individual cases.

The payload was about 300-500 kilograms, and the missile around 80 centimeters in width. This would require a small warhead to work properly, and a light one to push the missile to its intended range. The first-gen Iraqi warhead would have been too big, but it would not have been an insurmountable problem given enough time (or, in my backgrounds, an AQ Khan-style nuclear network providing the materials/documentation to build a ‘standardized’ warhead small enough to fit into a Condor II).

To have every regional nuke-seeker get Condors is still a bit of a stretch. Historically, the foreign components and shaky finances of the developments gave opponents leverage that they used to squash it. But to have some of them slip through is not entirely implausible.

Nuclear War Simulator is Out

Nuclear War Simulator, a detailed simulation of nuclear war (obviously 😀 ) on any scale from “one missile” to “one destroyed world”, of any type from “meticulously placed real units and real locations” to “hypothetical custom clashes between two countries that never historically developed nukes at all” is now out.

It can be gotten here.